Are You Uncomfortable Filling Your Calendar with Empty Spaces?

The Book on Boundaries

It sounds like a great book. On boundaries. A great subject.

So I pick up a copy at my library.

But the book is boring. It’s repetitive. It’s unhelpful.

Don’t I already know this stuff?

But if I do already know this material—on honoring boundaries—why am I still reading this book, thus ignoring my own boundaries?

What Buffett Said

There is a popular interview between Warren Buffett and Bill Gates. Gates is asked what he’s learned from Buffett.

Gates replies that Buffett taught him to “fill his calendar with spaces.”

As Buffett listens, he reaches for his small paper calendar. He opens it to reveal all the empty spaces.

Buffett, one of the richest people in the world, says, “Time is the one thing no one can buy.”

Image: Are you uncomfortable filling your calendar with empty spaces?

Open Your Calendar

If you opened your calendar right now, would you see an overflowing of events, or lots of empty spaces?

If the pandemic taught us anything (and hopefully it taught us a lot of things!), it’s that we can manage with more empty spaces. That we actually need more empty spaces.

There’s a sweet spot between doing too much and not doing enough.

Have you found it?

Prioritize the Empty Spaces

For me, the sweet spot between too much and not enough is a moving target.

While I crave stillness, I still create an impossibly heavy to-do list every day.

So if I truly value empty space like I claim I do, why don’t I prioritize it more often?

Perhaps I don’t schedule more empty spaces because I value productivity more. I value efficiency more.

But in the end, which is really more important?

Practice Being Uncomfortable

So this week, I promise to add more X’s on my daily calendar to indicate open spaces.

It will make me uncomfortable. I will miss out on doing some things that I want to get done.

But learning to live with the discomfort of the unfinished is a valuable skill, too.

For people like me who feel compelled to finish projects, even when they are no longer worth finishing, practicing the skill of walking away—of releasing—may be more valuable than the skill of persevering to the end.

Put the Book Away

So the book on boundaries? I stopped reading it. Right there around page 32.

I removed my bookmark, closed the book, and placed it in the return basket.

To NOT finish a book I start always feels like a small victory for me.

It’s a practice of valuing my own boundaries. Boundaries of interest, of time, of worth.

Perhaps I can learn a lesson from Warren Buffett, too. Including filling my calendar with more spaces.

Creating more empty spaces coincides with my One Word for 2022, Release

Read more about time:

I err on finishing even when it’s not necessary, but others err on NOT finishing even when they want to. Which side do you lean toward? What helps you find your sweet spot?

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33 thoughts on “Are You Uncomfortable Filling Your Calendar with Empty Spaces?

  1. Barbara Harper

    I always have more on my to-do list than I can get done in a day. But I *have* to have time, both hours in the day and days in the week, with nothing scheduled. I am still doing things with that time–I’m not sitting around eating bonbons and watching soaps. But I just can’t handle the pressure of continual have-to-do things. I could not handle now the schedule I had in college.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      I intentionally try to take more down time on the weekends to get some Sabbath rest. And yes, even during our non-scheduled time, we’re still doing things with our time, but it just feels different and better. 🙂

  2. Lynn D. Morrissey

    A wonderful post, and particularly appropos “pour moi,” because FINISH is my 2022 word! I love this idea that sometimes it is a perfectly wonderful decision NOT to finish something. Usually that is NOT good for me; hence, God’s prompting to FINISH a lot of what I have started (or not started but should). However, to finish something that is boring or banal or harmful, etc., is wise. My precious mother, now 92, will finish old movies she thinks are actually pretty awful, b/c she wants to see how they end. I can’t dissuade her from this, and, admittedly, sometimes I have done the same. But what a sense of freedom comes in releasing (your word) the unfinished movie, book, task, job or committee assignment when it is boring, or maybe ill-fitting. That happened to me on a committee, where my job description changed, and I was being expected to perform duties I’d never agreed to do! So after much prayer (and angst) I stopped. I don’t ever want to shirk responsibilities, but in this case I had to finish that position. As always, I love all you write. Thanks for a new perspective for me on FINISHING.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      I actually thought about you as I was finishing this post, Lynn, knowing that FINISH is your word. It reminded me that we can approach this from two sides, and the advice that might work for me might not work for someone else. 🙂 Perhaps I’m an overfinisher whereas you might think you’re an underfinisher. May we meet in the middle! 🙂

      Before we went to see the new Top Gun movie at the theater, I first read an online summary of the old Top Gun plot. I wanted to be reminded of who the characters were, etc., but I knew I would NOT want to invest two hours in re-watching the old movie. lol.

  3. Lynn D. Morrissey

    PS I finally ck’d out the original Top Gun from the library. After about 15 min. I did NOT finish. I was bored out of my mind. I returned it! 🙂 Frankly, I did not care how it turned out, and life is too short to have watched it to the bitter end.

  4. Lisa Blair

    I enjoy “getting things done” and I enjoy having “downtime” to rest, think, or to be intentional with God and others. It is a balancing act that requires prayer, intentionality, release, and skill, Lisa.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      I totally agree. I’m working on getting better at it. For today, I’ve been getting things done this morning so I can go to the movies this afternoon with my husband. Seems like a perfect blend for this Tuesday in his first full week of retirement! 🙂

  5. Lynn D. Morrissey

    Thx for your response, Lisa. Actually I was a total perfectionistic over finisher, so much so that sometimes I didn’t finish. Now, frankly, I am struggling w/ even starting. I think something in me rebelled, and now, I need to get back on track, start, and finish. Thankfully, God is not finished with me yet. I think I need to meet in my own middle (based on your response)! 🙂

  6. Lynn

    I can’t wait to hear how you do with opening time on your schedule! I was once counselled to learn to sit and do nothing– just sit with myself, and resist the urge to get up and get going as long as I could. This was to help me be okay with my feelings rather than distract myself away from my emotions. I definitely lean toward not finishing, and undone’s can put weight on my soul. I must be careful to take on what I am likely to finish than not.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      I’ve been trying to just sit and do nothing with some of my empty spaces. It’s not always easy tho, I have to admit! ha. I at least want to be reading a book when I’m sitting, but that counts as doing “something.”

  7. Jean Wise

    Interesting you stop reading the book. I have done that too. Freeing isn’t it? yet your words on the post about boundaries and white spaces was just what I needed to hear as I discern some commitments for the coming year, Thanks for your insight and wisdom today.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Yes, it is freeing to stop a book! But I do it rarely. If anything, I’ll usually just heavily skim til the end if it’s not a good book. lol. Nonfiction anyway. I’m sure you’ll wisely discern your upcoming commitments!

  8. Joanne

    I love empty spaces on my calendar! I guard my time quite well (I think) and try to keep at least a couple days open each week.. of course that often gets filled with errands or cooking but I do take a few hours almost every afternoon to sit, read, and relax.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      You’re a good example for this, Joanne! I try to keep Saturday and Sundays open for sure, but I don’t always succeed, pending on what the week prior has been like. But I’m working on it. 🙂

  9. Lauren Sparks

    You are giving me a lightbulb moment right now. I always get excited when I “end up” with free time, but I have not ever once thought of actually scheduling it. Duh. Kinda goes well with my word – rest.

  10. Lory @ Entering the Enchanted Castle

    Another way I have seen this put is “scheduling time with yourself.” A very busy nun who was constantly over-extending herself in helping others did this, as a way to be able to say “no” to requests for her time, because she already had an appointment — with herself!

    Empty spaces in my day too often end up being filled with distraction and merely wasted time. On the other hand, I know that keeping too busy is equally draining. One thing I am trying is the practice of centering prayer, which is a kind of conscious emptiness. It’s a space of time that I set aside to accomplish nothing, only practice being open to the presence and love of God. It’s incredibly hard for me but I find that it has an effect, more on the rest of the day than in the moment. So I will keep up this research and see where it goes.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Yes, scheduling time with ourselves is a great way to put it–it makes it sound so official to pencil ourselves in on the calendar. 🙂 I hope you are enjoying your time in centering prayer. I’ve found it to be a nourishing activity too, even though I often still find it difficult.

  11. Astrid

    I do not have too many activities on my calendar, but I do find myself filling up my time with things that don’t really mean much to me. That’s equally destructive in the end. Congrats on DNF’ing that book on boundaries! You were clearly spending your time on something meaningless to you reading it.

  12. Corinne Rodrigues

    Wow! I’m going to do just that for the next week – ‘schedule empty spaces’!
    I really don’t want to feel the guilt of unfinished projects and have decided not to commit to new ones until I finish the old ones. But there are some, I need to abandon completely.
    Thank you for the inspiration, Lisa.

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